For decades, Lookout Mountain Club was viewed by architecture buffs and historians as one of the country’s great renovation opportunities.
Seth Raynor laid out the course in 1925 on a high, tilting property near Lookout Mountain’s northeastern flank, just outside of Chattanooga. Raynor, who came into the profession over a decade earlier as a surveyor and construction specialist helping celebrated architect C.B. Macdonald build courses like National Golf Links of America, Piping Rock and the extinct Lido Club, had by this time become one of the most active and sought-after designers in the United States. At each of his commissions, including Lookout Mountain, he used variations of the “ideal holes” Macdonald first developed at NGLA (based on original holes from the U.K.), including the Redan, Eden, Road Hole, Alps (below), etc.
These Raynor/Macdonald hole templates have always been present at Lookout Mountain, though few golfers would have recognized them. The course was never finished to Raynor’s plans or standards because he died in 1926 before construction began, and budget constraints and the difficulty of building on the mountain’s solid granite prevented his associate Charles Banks from executing the details. At the time, it was believed to be the second-most expensive golf course ever built, after Yale, another Raynor/Macdonald design.
The subsequent years were no kinder. The club never had the resources to properly invest in preserving the Raynor architecture that did get built, and over the decades the greens shrunk, the bunkers dulled and tree-planting crowded the holes. Despite the memorable elevated setting, Lookout Mountain resembled a Raynor course only in glancing angles, a great “what if” considering that the architect's best-preserved work includes four courses—Fishers Island, Chicago Golf Club, Camargo and Shoreacres—in Golf Digest’s top 50.
Until recently. Like so many clubs nationally, increased golf demand has allowed Lookout Mountain to at last raise the funds necessary to bring Raynor’s original vision into form. Architects Tyler Rae and Kyle Franz, who work independently but have partnered on several historical renovations over the past few years, were hired to rebuild the golf course, and construction began in Summer 2022.
Best in State: Ranked 19th, 2021-'22.